"UAE 94" detainees on hunger strike over prison mistreatment

Published Thursday, September 5, 2013

Eighteen jailed United Arab Emirates nationals are on hunger strike in protest at what they say is ill-treatment following their conviction of plotting to overthrow the government, an activist said on Thursday.

The activist source, who is close to the families of those detained, said at least two of the detainees had to be hospitalized.

The detainees are among the “UAE 94” tried in a crackdown on political dissent in the gulf country in the past year.

"They are living on dates, water and juice only," the activist source told Reuters, adding that some of them have been on strike since July 31.

"They were forced to go on hunger strike to protest against the numerous violations of their rights as prisoners and against what seems to be deliberate mistreatment," he said.

A UAE court in July convicted and jailed 61 of the “UAE 94,” a diverse group of doctors, academics, lawyers, judges and other professionals who have were accused of building a secret network to plot the coup.

Many of the defendants are allegedly part of a loosely knit Islamist network known as al-Islah, which advocates a greater public voice in UAE's tightly controlled affairs. The group says it is a peaceful movement committed to non-violent reform.

Amnesty International, which said three of the 18 on hunger strike had collapsed between August 21 and 28, has urged action to protect the detainees.

"They have complained of beatings by prison guards and restrictions placed on family visits. They have complained of light deprivation and say that prison authorities turn off the air conditioning in high temperatures," it said, urging people to write to the authorities about the hunger strikers.

NGOs AlKarama, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch had released a report in June revealing that the “UAE 94” were tortured and systematically mistreated while in custody.

UAE officials were not immediately available to comment on the report.

(Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

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